Emmy Rossum savours playing the bad girl in Beautiful Creatures
Thinks her film is better for young women than Twilight
Photo credit: John Bramley, Warner Bros. Pictures.
As a kid, Emmy Rossum probably never envisioned herself doing phone interviews on a Saturday afternoon while walking through the snowbound streets of her native New York. But that’s what happens when you go from singing in the children’s chorus at the Metropolitan Opera at age 7 to being an in-demand actress starring in what could become the next big tween film franchise.
“I thought I was going to be an opera singer when I was a kid,” says the 27-year-old co-star of Beautiful Creatures. “All this success just kind of came out of left field in a sense. I mean, I’m terribly happy with it, but it’s certainly not where I envisioned myself when I was a kid. And it’s obviously important to me, and I worked very hard at it so I feel pretty blessed.”
Directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You), Beautiful Creatures, stars Alden Ehrenreich (upcoming Stoker) as Ethan Waite, a restless teen stuck in the small Southern town of Gatlin. His boring life becomes considerably more interesting when Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert, upcoming Ginger & Rosa) blows into town. Lena is a “Caster,” a witch from a family of supernatural beings who falls in love with Ethan, despite her family’s ban on loving a human. Her upcoming sixteenth birthday will determine whether she will use her considerable powers for Light or Dark.
Rossum plays Lena’s Dark Caster cousin Ridley who uses her powers of seduction to help set in motion the tragic events that Lena’s mother Sarafine, the most powerful Dark Caster of them all, hopes will sway her daughter to join her on the dark side.
“I like that she has no real compunction in what she does,” Rossum says of Ridley. “She’s bad. She enjoys her power; she enjoys her power over men. She has a very, very tiny heart underneath it all, and not only is she naturally kind of on the dark side but also because she’s kind of been disenfranchised and pushed out from her family. And there’s an anger and a hurt there that really fuels this kind of childish, nasty side of her. So that was really fun to tap into, and playing a villain who is really an outcast kind of humanized her for me.”
The film is based upon the first novel in the young adult series by writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. A self-confessed Harry Potter fan, Rossum realizes that not all fans of the Beautiful Creatures books will agree with either her casting or her character’s styling, which, while still sexy, differs from the more punkish, Harajuku Girl-look described in the novels.
“But that’s very minimal compared to the positive outreach that we’ve gotten [from fans] who really like this envisioning of the character in the movie. So hopefully they will be loyal to us and give us a chance to share our vision of these novels with them.”
If Beautiful Creatures dominates the box office this weekend, it seems likely that the next book in the series, Beautiful Darkness, will get greenlit before the week is out. I ask Rossum if she would be interested in revisiting Ridley.
“Oh, absolutely,” she says. “That’s where my character, in the book at least, really, really gets interesting. Absolutely. She has a greater role in that one so I’d like to come back and take that on. She’s a great character, and if you haven’t read the books, in the second book she actually loses all of her powers and is a mortal girl and is really pissed off about it.”
Rossum is perhaps best known for playing the stressed-out Fiona Gallagher in the hit Showtime series Shameless. Currently in its third season, Showtime recently renewed Shameless for a fourth season. Does she have a preference for film or television at this stage in her career?
“I have a preference for well-written characters,” she says. “There’s really no medium I won’t take on if I think it’s interesting or challenging; if it’s a good character. I love the character I get to do on Shameless. It’s a treat, and I don’t really have a preference for the medium as long as it’s a juicy character. I’m just lucky I’m on a network like Showtime that really features women at the center of their show, and they give them opportunities to play flawed, interesting characters.
Not surprisingly given that both are based on novels aimed at young women and contain elements of the supernatural, Beautiful Creatures is getting compared, fairly or not, to the Twilight films. Beautiful Creatures, however, has yet to be pilloried for its retrograde sexual politics in the way the Twilight franchise has. Does she think her franchise is a better role model for the hordes of young women who will likely descend upon their local multiplexes this weekend?
“I do. I feel like it’s good for young women to see a girl who has all the power, struggling with who she is going to become. Is she going to be light or dark? Who are we? So I do think it is good for young women. And also to be adored by a young man who is intelligent and caring and is not a predator that is going to hurt you in any way is a good thing.”